Art Deco Architecture – New Zealand Style!
No trip to New Zealand North Island would be complete for us without a visit to Napier and The Hastings. Napier is world renowned for its art deco architecture, but we visited Hastings first, which also has some great examples of this style of buildings.
Getting to Napier
We left the madness of ‘Waitangi Weekend’ in Wellington behind us and headed North East up Highway 2 towards Napier. The journey is pretty but has no great ‘must see’ scenery or attractions along this route. Unless you want to get the welcome from the bosom protruding hosts at the Tui Brewery tour between Pahiatua and Woodville, although there are plenty of cellar door vineyards to keep you entertained if you’re not feeling very blokeish.
We’d hoped to do a side detour on the way to Palmerston North, but as a result of a massive landslide back in April 2011, Highway 3 is closed, by the looks of the land and stone they will have to move, and it will be that way for some time to come. We consoled ourselves with some fish and chips from a great shop just opposite the I-site in Woodville, although John did nearly purchase a ‘Burley Bomb’ dinner which is fishing bait.
We stopped overnight in a campsite that was stuck in the 1960’s, but it was quiet and we had everything we needed (a shower) and then headed out next morning for our tour of Deco delights. This is arable farming country, so we picked up plenty of fresh organic fruits and veg before we got to Napier. It is the best corn on the cob I have ever tasted!
Hastings is packed with deco heritage buildings, and if you start your visit at the tourist information centre, i-site, which is housed in the deco style Westerman’s building, you can pick up a leaflet called ‘Art Deco Hastings’ which contains two self guided walks of Hastings CBD. In 1931 the Hawke’s Bay earthquake destroyed many of the buildings here, and when rebuilding the town they used plenty of concrete which lends itself well to deco, and the architects used the popular designs of the time which was art deco.
As well as the easily identifiable style of art deco, some of the heritage buildings constructed at this time are characterised by ‘stripped classical’ design seen in the pilasters & columns, and cornices with classical motifs. Another architectural influence you can see in the design is the Spanish Mission, for example terracotta roof tiles, and iron grilles. Architects took inspiration from San Francisco when rebuilding the area so their buildings could safely survive future quakes.
Napier Art Deco Architecture
We then travelled to Napier which is a larger town and contains many more Art Deco buildings than Hastings, again this is due to the earthquake that meant rebuilding in the 1930s. For anybody who loves art deco, as we do, this place is a must do visit.
I think you’d struggle to find such a large and diverse amount of this style of architecture anywhere in the world. The place is art deco crazy, you can take a plethora of tours, dine in art deco bars and restaurants, and you could be forgiven you had stepped into a time warp – in a good way. Each year Napier holds an art deco weekend, you can find out more by following the link.
We didn’t want to leave Napier and could have spent the afternoon listening to jazz and soaking up the atmosphere, surrounded by beautiful buildings.
Art Deco emerged from Europe and latterly the US during the 1920s, and whilst walking around Napier there are countless examples of this design style. The angular hard edges of buildings, and repeated geometrical shapes, sunbursts and horizontal and vertical lines fill your heart with joy.
Although NZ is very beautiful and makes a great travel destination, I have found it difficult to picture myself living here, as you sometimes do when visiting different locations. However, Napier is a very busy town and as it’s located on the coast at a port (I need to live by water, I don’t know why?) and is a place we would happily consider living due to the ambience, architecture and atmosphere which evokes a note of history. What a wonderful, if not a little surreal, place!